McCumber's passion for finding the perfect wave
November 12, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Tyler McCumber has surfed all over the world, including Australia, Peru, Portugal and Barbados. (Jeffrey Spillers)
Forget the set of cut-down golf clubs. And don’t expect to hear tales of a pint-sized Tyler McCumber tagging along every day as his father Mark, a 10-time winner on the PGA TOUR, hit balls on the practice range at TPC Sawgrass.
The beach was Tyler’s happy place when he was a kid, and truth be told, it still is. The PGA TOUR rookie started surfing when he was five or six, first learning to stand up on a boogie board and now riding waves in such far-flung places as Australia, Peru, Portugal and Barbados.
“I just fell in love with the ocean,” Tyler says simply. “It became my favorite hobby. I wish I could have made a career out of it, but that wasn't going to happen.”
Tyler had two older sisters whose boyfriends at the time surfed, so he was exposed to the culture at a young age. A babysitter actually taught him to surf, and by the time he was around eight or nine, Tyler was paddling out to catch a set of waves just like other enthusiasts more than twice his age.
By the time he was a teenager, though, Tyler had also started playing golf. He’s come a long way from the all-star baseball player who used to hit the golf ball with no backswing, too.
Tyler played at Florida, twice earning honorable mention All-America recognition. He won three times on PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica and then three more times on the MacKenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada when he was named the 2018 Player of the Year. He earned his TOUR card for the 2019-20 season when he finished 22nd on the Korn Ferry Tour points list.
But Tyler still loves to surf. The 28-year-old had actually planned a bucket list trip to Indonesia during what he thought was going to be a gap in the TOUR’s fall schedule. But when the fall lineup included three more events than the previous year – with those all-important FedExCup points on offer, he knew he had to choose business over pleasure.
“It's pretty much the quintessential trip for a surfer,” Tyler says wistfully. “You know, the once in a lifetime opportunity, unless you're obviously professional, you'd probably go there quite a bit. …
“It takes forever to get there, almost a day and a half. You're flying multiple places and then taking a boat to an island and then you're on this boat for 10 days. You’re catered, eating fish and surfing perfect waves and it's cool and it's world-class.
“It's like taking a guy’s, you know, a group trip to go play St. Andrews or go play Augusta. It's just as good as it gets.”
Tyler has surfed the Soup Bowl – which legendary Kelly Slater, who is also an avid golfer, has called one of his top three waves in the world -- on the eastern coast of Barbados. Three winters ago, he hitch-hiked the south coast of New Zealand with his surfboard in tow.
And he absolutely loves the North Shore of Kauai.
“The waves have so much power,” Tyler says. “It's definitely the biggest, most respectable surf that I've been in. You know, you really have to respect the ocean out there and be, in my opinion, an above, a way above average, water man. .... You really have to learn the ocean in the art of sort of where the tides are and in where all the water's going in and using it to your favor, but also, you know, staying safe. …
“So, it takes really a lifetime of learning. It's like playing golf, you know, you just kind of feel it and respect it, because it'll really slap you around if you don't.”
Speaking of staying safe, Tyler – a classic adrenaline junkie who has also gone skydiving and BMX trail riding – did tear the labrum in his shoulder surfing in Hawaii three years ago, missing seven months of golf. But after surfing for more than two decades, he feels like he understands the sport and doesn’t take undo chances.
“Knock on wood, but you know, you sort of learn how to fall and I feel like for the, for the rush, like the adrenaline rush is probably the least dangerous sport,” Tyler says. “Not when you get to surfing crazy stuff … you know, over in Hawaii and all. But for the most part, you know, like a solid wave you can have a lot of fun on and it's minimal, somewhat minimal risks.”
So, which is better – surfing or playing golf? Well, Tyler, who once rated himself a 5 or 6 handicap on the waves, says both sports serve a different purpose in his life and as a result, comparing the two is difficult.
“They both give you a little bit of a rush, but one's definitely a hobby and one as a profession,” Tyler explains. “… But if I had to do one for the rest of my life, I’d pick surfing.
Then he paused and added “if I couldn't make money playing golf.”